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2015

Desfile de Éxitos 12/19/15: Debajo Los Puentes

carnaval on bridge

The song sitting atop this week’s radio chart is an oddity. Banda Carnaval’s “Te Cambio El Domicilio,” a spritely pitching of woo with soaring vocal harmonies and a clever title conceit (“don’t change anything, baby, ’cause I’mma make you change your address” — I’m paraphrasing), has been climbing Billboard‘s Regional Mexican chart for 17 weeks, finally hitting #1 last week. But it still hasn’t gone top 25 on the Hot Latin chart, which measures downloads and streams alongside radio play. This is the first Regional Mexican #1 this year that hasn’t cracked the Hot Latin 25, and most of those songs have gone top 10 on the big chart during their most popular radio weeks. Basically, if a song’s receiving that much radio play and it has an online presence — Youtube video, availability at streaming sites and download stores — it’s gonna represent on Hot Latin.

What’s more, the video for “Domicilio” — in which the young men of Carnaval pitch their woo in front of a number of high-end urban settings, including Guadalajara’s extremely pointy Puente Matute Remus — has been viewed 25 million times in the past four months… which, I dunno, seems like it should be enough to drive the song into the company of King Romeo and Viceroy Nicky Jam? For comparison, Remmy Valenzuela’s lovely inquiry into the madness of love, “¿Por Qué Me Ilusionaste?”, is middling at #12 Regional Mexican this week. Its video dropped a week later than Carnaval’s, and so far it’s garnered 6.5 million fewer views, but the song is at #18 Hot Latin. Granted, I have no idea how much either video has been viewed in specific weeks or how much they’ve sold online. All I know is Remmy’s song has less radio play and fewer overall Youtube hits than Carnaval’s song, but Remmy’s on Hot Latin and Carnaval isn’t.

This isn’t some huge cosmic injustice or anything; basically it’s me pointing a dowsing stick at Billboard and trying to divine their proprietary chart formulas. Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 12/19/15: Debajo Los Puentes”

Lo Mejor De 2015: El Komander

el komander horse

Having begun his career several years ago as an intimidating narcosinger, Alfredo Ríos “El Komander” has since softened into norteño’s cuddliest barfly, a charming lout with an endless stream of stories about heartaches and the bottles they’ve occasioned. In 2015 he released a single nearly every month. Thanks to his rambunctious band and self-referential writing style, these songs never sounded like work, whether they grew into big radio hits (“Malditas Ganas”) or remained little-heard square dances (“Fuga Pa’ Maza”). Komander included some, but not all, of these singles on Detrás del Miedo (Twiins); there’s also a duet with the recently incarcerated (but no less charming) Larry Hernández, a couple banda remakes, and a tuba player hellbent on cracking everyone up. Next year’s album should be another corker.

Not content to release one fine album in 2015, Sr. Ríos just keeps putting out music about mind-altering substances. On his two best non-album singles, he sings about the ominous presence of a white Ford Tacoma on his pot farm (“La Tacoma”), and about quenching his dangerous thirst (“Hoy Toca”). His band eagerly takes up whatever he hands them.

Los Titanes Fake It So Real They’re Beyond Fake

the-latest-video-purportedly-showing-fugitive-mexican-drug-lord-el-chapo-partying-isnt-what-it-seems

UPDATE: Los Titanes’ singer has spoken about the mistaken identity:

“We wanted a character that looked like ‘El Chapo,'” Sanchez Ayon said. “We interviewed actors. But it turns out my dad is short, we put the baseball cap on and put him in the video. We didn’t mean to cause a problem.”

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Remember: in this new media economy, we bloggers are the cutting edge of journalism!

A video that surfaced Thursday purportedly showing “the most wanted man in the world,” Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, is actually cellphone video from the set of a music video portraying the famed Mexican drug lord.

The allegedly “leaked” video, published by El Blog Del Narco, shows a group of more than a dozen men, many heavily armed and some wearing military fatigues, at a party with a band playing music and a man performing dressage with a horse.

Dressage? A heavily armed paramilitary force?? I’m surprised nobody mistook the guy for Mitt Romney announcing his presidential bid at a border patrol rally. The Chapo likeness was good enough to fool — with reservations — one former DEA official:

“Based on several factors, there is a very strong possibility — I would say 90 to 95 percent — that it’s (El Chapo) in the video,” Vigil said in a phone interview with mySA.com on Thursday before the video’s origin was revealed. “I don’t know who else it could be.”

So apparently there are El Chapo impersonators in the world, and in the name of verisimilitude Los Titanes de Durango hired one for their “Ando Arremangado” video, and some alternative footage made its way from a phone to a narco site, and then precariously close to official investigation channels. If Los Titanes were angling for some free publicity and a good story to tell at parties, they succeeded. I wonder if the DEA has a file on them now.

It’s no secret that part of norteño music’s thrill comes from its proximity to real-life narco activity. Remember my man Juan Carlos: “Everybody thinks that they know the people [in the songs]. When we’re drunk, we sing a lot of Mexican narcocorridos… We feel good ‘cause maybe one person is from Sinaloa, so it makes you proud of those people.” Whether that proximity is real or implied varies from case to case, and most narco singers live quiet suburban lives and simply put on an act for their fans. So it’s no surprise that Los Titanes would depict themselves hanging out with El Chapo. And no matter who initiated this video leak, maybe it makes them feel more badass — they’ve faked it so real they’re beyond fake.

By the way, the song — in which the family band proclaims itself ready for action — is good. Drums and bass settle into a hard and steady rolling rhythm while the bajo sexto sticks to the offbeats. Occasionally the whole rhythm section joins forces for some syncopated fills that land like thrown punches. The accordion lays a series of nonstop ornamentation over the top, and Sergio Sánchez Ayón sings a sturdy melody. It’s that norteño sweet spot — a simple tune played with deceptive complexity, enfolded in the paratextual layers of the video. Pick to Click; just don’t imagine you’re watching a documentary.

Lo Mejor De 2015: Colmillo Norteño and Rocío Quiroz

rocio_quiroz_christian_manzanelli_representante_artistico_contratar_sitio_oficial_rocio_quiroz-3

Colmillo Norteño’s 10-song “EP” A Quien Corresponda (Remex) is better than their more recent full-length album because it’s more focused. If you’re gonna play a demented rapid-fire circus waltz like “La Plebona”, you really have to commit, you know? Of course you know. The quintet with the sousaphone “O” also covers Trakalosa’s great banda hit “Mi Padrino El Diablo”, a Faustian tale of soul-selling woe, and they use a couple other songs to namecheck notorious cartel figures. So they could maybe choose better role models; but if you were studying how to lead an insanely tight musical ensemble, you could do worse than taking notes from these guys.

Rocío Quiroz is from Argentina but we’ll let her song “La De La Paloma” (Ser) onto this list, given the space Regional Mexican airwaves allot to cumbia music. (See also the enduring presence of Grupo Cañaveral.) Buttressed by an off-kilter stomp, Quiroz’s voice powers through new wave guitar licks and synth buzz.

Lo Mejor de 2015: Julión “El Rey de Spotify” Álvarez and Banda Cuisillos

julion_lo_mas_escuchado

alvarez compBillboard tells us Julión Álvarez — the man with the continent’s best voice and the proud Instructor De Amor behind a brand new greatest hits compilation, Lecciones Para El Corazón (Disa) — was Spotify’s most streamed artist in Mexico this past year. As two more jewels in his gilded professorial crown, Lecciones and El Aferrado (Fonovisa) were the most streamed albums in Mexico, followed by albums from the Weeknd, Major Lazer, and — look at that! — Natalia LaFourcade, whose Hasta La Raíz NorteñoBlog called “fun in an arty go-go boots way.” (Maybe I should listen to it again.) (And stop using clothes metaphors.) Continue reading “Lo Mejor de 2015: Julión “El Rey de Spotify” Álvarez and Banda Cuisillos”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (aka The “Downtown” of Pan-Latino Videos)

julion and juan

At NorteñoBlog we’re accustomed to seeing our fair share of videos that are, to put it politely, extraordinary. (To put it impolitely: batshit insane.) Usually these videos result from the collision of wild creativity with meager indie label video budgets: Who can forget Los Pakines de Perú’s heavily narcotized Ed Wood fever dream for “Vacia,” which featured ghostly visions of a dude in a goblin mask playing the trumpet, as well as some ex-lovebirds smearing one another with frosting? That was not a rhetorical question. PLEASE TELL ME WHO CAN FORGET THAT VIDEO, so I can consult them before I wake up screaming again tonight.

Today’s extraordinary video is something different. For one thing, it wasn’t cheap. The song that sits at #12 on this week’s Mexican radio chart features not one but three big stars, a cast of dozens (at least), a norteño band and an R&B band, and serious Fonovisa/Universal money behind it. True, not much happens in the video — it’s a performance re-enactment, not one of those Trakalosa epics where the hero spends years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit until one day the stars cross and he shivs the real villain with a crucifix in the cafeteria. (I only made up the shiv.) But at the same time, you can tell it took some doing. The abundant video cutting suggests either a multitude of takes or an editor who was way overthinking the job; and Los Pakines could finance another video with Juan Gabriel’s eyeliner budget alone.

That’s right, it’s the new song by Juan Gabriel, a remake of his 1980 12-bar blues “La Frontera,” Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? (aka The “Downtown” of Pan-Latino Videos)”

Lo Mejor de 2015: Banda Costado, Grupo Cañaveral, and some Mexicats

jenny canaveral

The countdown continues to regions not often heard…

Foregoing such musical niceties as Chordal Harmony or Being Able To Tell The Songs Apart, the percussion-heavy southern septet Banda Costado reels off one minor-key violin melody after another on their album Chilenas de Oaxaca (Talento). Fiddle and singers work in counterpoint, with the tuba diving into the rhythmic arsenal — which, if you pay attention to it, sounds nearly as complex as the stuff avant-jazz legend Henry Threadgill has been playing with his tuba-inclusive band Zooid. Banda Costado is samier and less metrically ambiguous than Zooid; but to Costado’s credit, they sing and joke around more.

Turn of the millennium cumbiaderos Grupo Cañaveral have lately invited the trans-Atlantic pop band Jenny and the Mexicats onstage to sing their decade-old hit “Tiene Espinas el Rosal” (Fonovisa), about roses having thorns and whatnot. Jenny sings lead and takes a trumpet solo while the two bands groove toward infinity.

¡Nuevo! (starring Calibre 50 and Brazeros Musical)

brazeros girl

intocable 2cAt NorteñoBlog as in life, there’s a handful of generally beloved artists who I wish I liked better, because I can hear what other people hear in their music and it just doesn’t do much for me. I’m thinking of Sleater Kinney, or Taylor Swift before I fell for her Red album (and then promptly fell away from 1989). Intocable may fall into this category as well — I just tried again with their 2008 album 2C (Capitol), and found it accomplished but meh. These artists have obvious talent but they’re a chore to put on; in the words of Half Japanese, they follow no direct line from my brain to my heart.

calibre historiasInto their company waltzes Calibre 50, whose new album Historias De La Calle (Andaluz/Sony) just debuted at #1 on Billboard‘s Latin Albums chart. Led by accordionist/singer/songwriter Eden Muñoz, Calibre plays with clarity and invention. They root half their repertoire in the classic templates of corridos and cumbias. Check out the new album’s lead song, “El Amor No Fue Pa’ Mi,” to hear a band that knows exactly how to shape a four-chord polka for maximum definition and novelty. This song is packed with more hooks — shared among singers, squeezebox, and sousaphone — than many full-length norteño albums. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Calibre 50 and Brazeros Musical)”

Lo Mejor de 2015: Gerardo Ortiz and Pancho Uresti

uresti

Time to run down the year-end lists! Today, an album and two singles from the “Eh, good enough” end of the spectrum:

Who doesn’t love a Sony blockbuster? Lots of people, actually. Hoy Más Fuerte (Del/Sony), the latest album from norteño’s biggest star Gerardo Ortiz, is too long — 21 songs plus five bonus versions — and it comes up shorter on memorable tunes than Ortiz’s 2013 breakthrough Archivos de Mi Vida. And yet… you throw enough money at talented people and they’re bound to have at least one good idea. The best investments here were the session work of accordionist Marito Aguilar, who brings something amazing to every song he plays, and the horn charts, which are consistently better than they had to be. (See the giddy chromatic hilarity of the banda’s take on “El Amigo”.) If you could abide the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie thanks to Johnny Depp’s acting and some well-staged action sequences, you might make it through this album. That Ortiz is even thinking in terms of norteño blockbusters might be his greatest legacy.

Pancho Uresti, the unassuming singer for Banda Tierra Sagrada, wiled his way onto two of 2015’s most iconic singles. “Adicto a la Tristeza” (Remex) is a camp masterpiece by the prolific songwriter Erika Vidrio, in which Uresti wallows with Trakalosa’s Edwin Luna in a big old vat of tears and liquor. Collecting himself for “Debajo del Sombrero”, Uresti joins Leandro Ríos to petition an unsympathetic father and win the hand of his hija, in the process singing a string of “-ero” rhymes that’ll reverberate through Spanish 101 classrooms for years to come.

pancho urestiRemex has compiled both songs along with some other Uresti, both solo and duets, onto A Lo Grande, a decent album that’s not as spectacular as I’d unreasonably hoped.

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